Arlington Hts. law student wins national trial competition

  • Nicolette Ward, left, and Emily Schroeder defeated six nationally ranked trial teams to win the 40th annual National Trial Competition.

    Nicolette Ward, left, and Emily Schroeder defeated six nationally ranked trial teams to win the 40th annual National Trial Competition. Courtesy of Kent College of Law

Posted5/4/2015 2:50 PM

A third-year law student from Arlington Heights would appear to have a great future for herself in trial law.

A pair of litigators -- Emily Schroeder of Arlington Heights and Nicolette Ward of Des Moines -- have brought the National Trial Competition trophy home to IIT Chicago Kent School of Law. Officials with the National Trial Competition, based in Houston, came to Kent last week to present the trophy and a $10,000 prize.


Francis Wickstrom, president of the American College of Trial Lawyers, singled out Schroeder and Ward, who, working together, won the 40th annual competition by defeating six nationally ranked trial teams.

In addition, Schroeder received the competition's Best Advocate Award, out of 600 students who competed.

Kent officials say it is the first time two women law students have won the national competition, and Schroeder is only the second female national advocate winner.

"It was the defining moment of my life," Schroeder said.

Schroeder and Ward are part of Kent's trial advocacy team, currently ranked fourth in the country. They are coached by David Erickson, a retired Illinois Appellate Court justice, who directs Kent's trial advocacy program.

"Emily and Nicolette tried a phenomenal case," Erickson said of their final round. "Representing the defense, they skillfully argued a self-defense case before 21 members of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the most elite trial bar in the U.S. and Canada."

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Schroeder and Ward had spent hours preparing both sides of the case, but after winning regionals, that's when their dedication kicked in.

"For those three to four weeks, we worked with the (trial advocacy) team and our coaches, who literally presented us with every potential problem that could have come up," Schroeder said. "There's no doubt, we couldn't have done it without them."

Gwendolyn Osborne, director of public affairs for Kent, says, "It's like winning the Super Bowl of law school trial competitions."

Schroeder doesn't come from a long line of lawyers -- she's the daughter and granddaughter of dentists.

Her grandfather, Dr. Frank Schroeder, started the Arlington Heights Dental Group 60 years ago. Her father, Dr. Michael Schroeder, runs the practice the practice today, and also serves as Wheeling Township supervisor.

But Emily Schroeder, a 2008 Prospect High School graduate, had a law career in mind when she attended Purdue University and majored in political science with minors in history and Italian.


She's nearly there. Classes ended Friday at Kent and final exams begin today, before commencement ceremonies on May 17.

Meanwhile, Schroeder's awards are piling up. Last week, she was among a dozen students inducted into the law school's Bar & Gavel Society. The society selects graduating students who have distinguished themselves through outstanding service to the law school, community and the legal profession.

She also was recognized as a key member of the law school's trial advocacy team, which drew accolades from the law school's academic dean.

"We are fortunate to have such talented students and coaches," Dean Harold Krent said in a news release. "Their competence and discipline show why our trial ad program ranks among the finest in the country."

Schroeder is so passionate about trial advocacy, that she has become something of an ambassador for the law school. She has spoken about the merits of competing in mock trial competitions to current and prospective students, including during the Admitted Students Weekend in March.

Currently, Schroeder is a law clerk with the Cook County State's Attorney Office, but no matter where her career takes her, she plans find time to return next year to Kent, this time as a trial team coach.

"I always knew I wanted to be a litigator," Schroeder adds, "and by being involved with the trial advocacy team, I'm just so much more comfortable getting up in front of court, approaching the bench and talking to opposing counsel."

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